Proposal for a new way of voting for legislators/officers

Problem: Normal voting gives each person one vote, regardless of how much passion the person has for the issue.  One can imagine situations where a minority of people REALLY want something and a majority KINDA-SORTA-BARELY does not want the thing.  But with simple majority voting, that information is not captured.  Quadratic Voting is liked by economists because it theoretically addresses this problems and other problems with our normal way of voting.  Systems like these look great on paper but… it turns out that central to their design is people literally buying votes with money…  Buying votes.  Yah.  Not really something most citizens can get behind.  This is a problem for governance, both in government and in corporate governance.

Possible solution: Issue each voter 100 Vote Vouchers, a voucher entitles a voter to cast a vote.  At each election/referendum/motion (I’ll use election from here on out to mean any of these) each voter may cast as many, or as few, votes as they like in favor of their candidate.  At the conclusion of the election two things happen: the candidate with the most votes wins AND all of the vote vouchers are distributed EVENLY to everyone who voted.

Example:

  • Implement this system with the US Senate.
  • Vote comes up for a bill to outlaw immigrants from Mars.
    • 55 senators think competition with Martians would be bad, but not all that likely, so they cast 1 yea vote each for a total of 55 yea votes.
    • 43 senators are pro-immigration, but again feel this isn’t all that likely so they only cast 1 nay vote each for a total of 43 nays.
    • 1 senator (Alice) thinks this is a pretty bad idea and casts 2 nay votes.
    • 1 senator (Bob) thinks this is the height of foolishness and wants to be darn sure this bill does not pass, she casts the maximum 100 votes against the bill, bringing the total number of nays to 145.
    • The final vote is 55 yea, 145 nay, so the bill does not become law.  Note that the majority of senators were in favor of the bill, but the majority of votes were against.
    • A total of 200 votes were cast.  So 200 new vouchers are created and distributed EVENLY to all senators, so every senator gets 20 vouchers.
    • Bob now finds himself with only 20 votes available to spend when other senators have over 100 each.  This puts him at a severe disadvantage in future votes.
  • New situation.  Assume 100 senators with 100 votes each.  A bill comes to the floor, his one to outlaw BitCoin.
    • This bill is contentious.  52 senators spend all the votes they have on yea, meanwhile 47 senators spend all the votes they have on nay.  Meanwhile, the last senator to vote is the crafty Alice.  She watched her colleges argue and determined that her side (yea) is going to win without her vote.  So she decides to not vote.
    • The bill passes with 5,200 yea (52 senators spending 100 yea each) vs 4700 nay (47 senators spending 100 nay each).
    • A total of 9,900 votes were cast.  99 votes are redistributed to each senator.
    • So all the senators OTHER than Alice have 99 votes left to their name, which is pretty much what they had before so they probably aren’t bothered.  However, Alice now has 199 votes, giving her the maximum hitting power of TWO senators.  This gives her a lot of negotiating leverage in future bills that come up.  If she continues to correctly anticipate when her participation will not impact a vote that everyone else is passionate about, she will consistently grow her total vote voucher count while the rest of the senators watch their voucher count drop, further increasing her power.

I want to see a dead seagull on every slide

Years ago I read Seth Godin’s Really Bad Powerpoint, which is short but powerfully helpful.  One suggestion that particularly stood out for me:

Make slides that reinforce your words, not repeat them. Create slides that demonstrate, with emotional proof, that what you’re saying is true not just accurate.

 

Talking about pollution in Houston? Instead of giving me four bullet points of EPA data, why not show them this instead:

Deadbirdmo

Read me the stats but show me a photo of a bunch of dead birds, some smog and even a diseased lung? This is cheating! It’s unfair! It works.

To help my students remember this powerful lesson I tell them “I want to see a ‘dead seagull’ on every slide.”  They don’t forget.  They reduce number of words, replace with images that powerfully communicate the emotion behind their speech…

Read the whole thing: Seth Godin’s Really Bad Powerpoint.

Donuts vs Fruit: asking for actions, not intentions, during customer development

Donuts    vs    fruit plate

A woman from a pastry startup walks into an office full of potential customers to conduct customer development interviews.  She asks everyone “You told me you often need snacks in the middle of the day.  What would be better, if I brought a plate of donuts or a plate of fruit?” Most people tell her they would prefer fruit because it is healthier.  On her way out she leaves a plate of each behind as a thank-you gift.  She comes back the next day and discovers there are no donuts left, but lots of rotting fruit! What did she learn?

A novice would think they learned that customers lie so there is no point in asking them.  A pro realizes the importance of how you ask the question.  It is very hard for people to know what they might/would do with any accuracy.  If instead you ask what people have done, or give them a situation to make a real choice, then you get much more usable information.

Note that you have two ways to apply this great lesson:

  1. Before you have a prototype you can ask people what they have done in similar situations in the past.
  2. Once you have a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), give people a choice between your option and the alternative.

Take away:

When conducting customer development interviews ask what people have done, not what they would/might do.

Hat Tip to the man who taught me this concept and the entertaining way to remember it: the great Eddie Binder.

Only a Few Seats Left For Lean Launchpad Demo Day!

There are only a few tickets left for next week’s Lean Launchpad: Pioneer Valley Graduation Celebration & Demo Day.  Because of space (and wine :)) seats are limited and only those who RSVP can attend.  So if you’d like to join us, RSVP here.

Who is attending: primarily angel investors, mentors, and entrepreneurs who want to see first-hand the results of Lean Launchpad training.  Get more details here.

Metrics That Matter

What are the Metrics That Matter for your venture? No… not the vanity metrics that so many of us were taught to pay attention to.  What are the metrics that actually show you if your venture is on the right track?

I watch my students struggle with this a great deal.  I’d like to offer some patterns that can serve as a starting point to anyone considering these questions.

  1. Cost to acquire/get a customer helps you evaluate different channels for their relative value, shows you when your website is doing a terrible job of converting visitors into contacts, steers you towards labor-efficient/scalable techniques, etc.
    Somesubmetrics:

    1. Sales & marketing costs: out-of-pocket + labor (assume a market-rate labor cost so you do not underestimate labor-intensive marketing channels)
    2. # hits to your website, # of cold calls
    3. % that convert to contact you, % that meet with you
    4. % that purchase
  2. Cost to keep/retain a customer helps you spot when you are using unsustainable customer service / product delivery procedures.
    Somesubmetrics:

    1. Cost of customer service team, returns, refunds, etc.
    2. # of customers
  3. Lifetime value of a customer helps you think about customer retention and how to grow revenue from existing customers by keeping them longer or by solving other problems for them via new products.
    1. % of customers who renew
    2. Revenue per customer

These three metrics, while not all-inclusive, are a fantastic starting point.

 

You’re Invited! Lean Launchpad: Pioneer Valley Graduation & Demo Day

Image

If you’ve been following this blog you know that the Lean Launchpad is the #1 entrepreneurship curriculum in the country.  It has proven it can dramatically increase startups’ odds of success by accelerating their ability to find a repeatable, scalable business model before they run out of ramen noodles (or spousal patience :)).  

WE INVITE YOU TO COME SEE FOR YOURSELF.

The latest cohort of Western Massachusetts teams to complete the Lean Launchpad curriculum is graduating on 4/28 @ 5pm and giving their final presentations.  No spin-ridden investor pitches will be shown this night.  Instead the audience will hear how the companies developed their ideas, field tested them with real customers, changed (often radically) their businesses, and did the whole process over and over again until they got it right or ran out of time.  You’ll see how they learn and how they adapt.  You’ll also see how the Lean Launchpad curriculum is so different.  

And after the presentations… then there will be wine :).

You must RSVP to attend as space (and wine!) is limited.  We would love to have you join us.

Click to RSVP via Eventbrite

Click to RSVP via Eventbrite

 

What a Customers Who’s “Hair is On Fire” Looks Like

Steve Blank‘s Customer Development methodology emphasizes that startups need to seek “earlyvangelists,” potential customers who’s “hair is on fire.”  Great image!  Makes sense when you hear it!  Then you try to find such customers and… their hair is not literally on fire so you struggle to apply the concept!

Here is a definition that my students find helpful (adapted from Steve Blank’s work):

A Customer’s “Hair is on fire” when they are in so much pain that they are already spending time and/or money on some hodgepodge solution that you are superior to?